Community Justice Files 34

Published 17/12/2014
Type Article
Author(s) Dr Nick Flynn, Ross Little
Corresponding Authors

Preferred bidders for Community Rehabilitation Companies announced

The Ministry of Justice have announced their preferred bidders for the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies. Over half of the probation services will be run by consortia led by just two private sector providers: Sodexo and Interserve. A full list of the preferred bidders is available at:

Criminal Justice and Courts Bill: Secure Colleges (Part 2, Schedule 5 and 6)
First laid out in the Government response to the Green Paper ‘Transforming Youth Custody (January, 2014) and now legislated for in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, proposals to introduce a network of ‘secure colleges’, putting “education at the heart of youth custody”, have raised growing concerns amongst penal reform groups over the safety, health and wellbeing of the children it is intended to hold in them. A 320-bed, £85million ‘pathfinder secure college’, accommodating girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 17, is due to open in Leicestershire in 2017. A briefing prepared by the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, the Children’s Right’s Alliance and the Howard League for Penal Reform to inform the House of Lords Report Stage of the Bill has emphasised the following:

Large institutions, far from a child’s home, potentially holding a very diverse population are unsafe, unsuitable environments, which will not help to reduce reoffending or improve education… very little detail has been provided about how secure colleges will operate or the minimum standards required… The very limited information which does appear in the consultation document does nothing to allay our very serious concerns about the safety of children in secure colleges. On the contrary, it heightens our concerns. The consultation contains only one page on education, yet nearly half of the document is on punishment and the use of force. The impression is that punishment, rather than education, will be “at the heart of youth custody.

The following amendments to the Bill were proposed:
 108, 110, 111 and 118, which prevent a secure college being established, or an operating contract being entered into, before Parliament has approved comprehensive Secondary legislation, and require the Secretary of State to ensure that secure colleges meet the adequate health and wellbeing needs of children.
 109 which prevents girls and children younger than 15 being detained in a secure college.
 121 which permits force to be used on children in secure colleges only as a last resort, for the purposes of preventing harm to the child or others, and to the minimum extent necessary.

However, opinion in the House of Lords on the proposals for ‘secure colleges’ appears to be divided. During the debate held on 23rd July 2014, peers voted only in favour of the second of the amendments tabled and then by a majority of just one (186 to 185).

Secure colleges and the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (Part 2 and Schedules 5 & 6) House of Lords Report Stage briefing, prepared by the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, the Children’s Right’s Alliance and the Howard League for Penal Reform, can be found at:

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales Annual Report 2013-14
Concerns about the safety and welfare of children and young people held in new ‘secure colleges’ have also been raised recently by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. In his Annual Report for 2013-14, Nick Hardwick outlines the drop in numbers over the past decade of young people held in young offender institutions which has led to a shrinking of the estate overall. This has left a smaller but much more vulnerable and challenging population with a higher propensity for violence. Given the reduction in the numbers, the 320 bed ‘secure college’, planned to open in Leicestershire in 2017, will hold about a quarter of all children in custody, raising doubts that these very troubled children will receive a “better education than that delivered in YOIs, where provision has improved significantly” (p.15).

Addressing pressures more generally within the prison estate, the Chief Inspector challenged the Government over policies to reduce expenditure and at the same time increase the prison population over operational capacity and projected levels. Financial savings made by reducing staff had resulted in staff shortages and a significant loss of more experienced personnel. Of most concern was that severe overcrowding in many prisons meant that safety outcomes had declined significantly. As well as a growing insufficiency of purposeful activities and rehabilitation programmes in prisons, there had been an overall increase in the level of assaults, especially in adult male prisons. The Chief Inspector found that “adult males prisons are becoming more violent every year; that trend accelerated in 2013-14 and included a dramatic 38% rise in the number of serious assaults” (p. 10). Associated with this, there had also been a dramatic increase in the number of self-inflicted deaths and self-harm in prisons. Self-inflicted deaths in custody increased by 69% in 2013-14 compared to the previous year. Acknowledging that a rise in self-inflicted deaths in custody cannot be attributed to a single cause, the Chief Inspector nevertheless concluded that:

The conjunction of resource, population and policy pressures…was a very significant factor in the rapid deterioration of safety and other outcomes… The rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths was the most unacceptable feature of this (p. 11).

Responding to the Report on national radio, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling disagreed with the findings of the Chief Inspector, maintaining that there were at present sufficient prison places, that new ones would be available in the future, and that any increase in the prison population was linked to the prosecution of historic sex offences. The Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous, was also quoted in the Guardian on 21st October 2014 saying that the rise in self-inflicted deaths was “a complex issue and the Chief Inspector has failed to provide any evidence to support his assertion that this is linked to reforms made under this government”.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales Annual Report 2013-14 can be found at:

Closure of North Liverpool Community Justice Centre
Following consideration by the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunal Service of responses to the consultation paper ‘Proposal on the future of North Liverpool Community Justice Centre’, published on 17th July 2013, it has been decided to close and transfer the work of the Centre to Sefton Magistrates’ Court. Despite accepting that workload at the Centre had increased in recent years, for example criminal proceedings from April to July 2013 increased, by 31 per cent, HM Court and Tribunal Service concluded that “the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre is unlikely to offer value for money over future years” (p. 23).

Opened in 2005 and based on principles of problem solving and community engagement, the Centre was the first, and most highly developed, community justice court in the UK. Presided over by a judge, offenders were required to attend treatment programmes and undertake unpaid work for the benefit of local community residents. An evaluation of the centre, published in 2011 by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies concluded that:

Community justice in general, and the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre in particular, could have a potentially transformative effect on criminal justice. It is vital that the North Liverpool Centre continues its work as a crucible for experimentation and a flagship for community justice. But to do this successfully it requires long-term funding, an acknowledgement that – if it is expected to innovate and experiment – then failures will occur, and a long-term research strategy that can work alongside the Centre. Without the latter, the Centre will eventually be seen as an emperor with no clothes.

Interviewed by BBC News on 23rd October 2014, one of the authors of the evaluation report, Professor George Mair of Liverpool Hope University, said: “I think it is very unfortunate that one of the most exciting initiatives in community justice has been closed down with little evidence to back up such a decision”.

Response to the proposal on the future of North Liverpool Community Justice Centre, The Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunal Service can be found at:

The evaluation report, ‘Doing justice locally: The North Liverpool Community Justice Centre’ by George Mair and Matthew Millings can be found at:

Figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales and police recorded crime
Statistics published by the Office for National Statistics on 16 October show that there was a 16% reduction in the overall number of estimated incidents of crime against households and resident adults in England and Wales for the year ending June 2014. This is the lowest estimate since the survey began in 1981. The number of crimes reported to the Crime Survey for England and Wales was 7.1 million, roughly double the number of crimes (3.7 million) recorded by the police over the same time period (year ending 2014). Prior to this, police recorded crime figures have shown year-on-year reductions since 2003/04. The survey data showed a decline in most offences, including a 23% fall in violent crime, a 20% drop in criminal damage and a 12% decline in theft. The police recorded crime figures showed a 21% increase in sexual offences, including a 29% increase in rape. The ONS website states that “current, rather than historic, offences account for the majority of the increase in sexual offences (73% within the last 12 months). Despite these recent increases, it is known that sexual offences are subject to a high degree of underreporting”.

Separate hate crime figures published by the Home Office showed that hate crimes in England and Wales rose 5% to 44,480 in 2013/14. Race hate crimes rose by 4% to 37,484 and religious hate crimes were up 45% to 2,273 offences.

The statistical bulletin for Crime in England and Wales, Year Ending June 2014, can be found at:

Hate crimes, England and Wales, 2013 to 2014 can be found at:

The Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference
The Secretary of State for Justice gave his annual speech to the Conservative Party Conference on 30 September. Key messages included the toughness of the Tories running the criminal justice system. Mr Grayling claimed “You are more likely to go to prison. You will go there for longer. And it will cost the hard-working tax payer less to keep you there.” Grayling also claimed he had “toughened community sentences” and “stopped prisoners claiming legal aid”.

A key focus of the speech was on victims. Grayling spoke about the introduction of the “widely acclaimed” Victims Code and stated that the next Conservative Government:

…will go much further, introducing a Victims Law to set victims’ rights in statute…and are planning a new national information service, a single telephone number and website, so every single victim of crime has an easy place to go to find out what help is available to them.

He emphasized that these victim’s services are “being paid for by the criminals, not the taxpayers”.

On prisons, Grayling stressed that by the time of the election in 2015 there “will be three thousand more adult male [prison] places than we inherited from Labour”. And on “youth facilities”, he stated that “there will be double the amount of education each week in young offenders’ institutions”. He also announced the opening of “a new kind of institution, a Secure College to take that education drive one step further”. Stressing the importance of work and education for effective resettlement, he emphasized that the new Secure College would be “tougher and more regimented”:

And we’re getting rid of playstations and Xboxes from cells there too. No young person in detention should be sitting up all night playing computer games.

The full version of Chris Grayling’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference can be found at:

Drugs: international comparators
The Home Office has published an international comparative policy paper on drug-related issues (30 October 2014). The introduction to the paper notes:

There is robust evidence that drug use among adults has been on a downward trend in England and Wales since the mid-2000s. This trend seems to be reflected in drug use among children of school age. While, historically, levels of drug use in the UK have been relatively high, there are signs that, following several years of declining use, levels of drug use in this country are close to the European average (p.4).

The paper draws on a 2010 report which looked at changes in the use of criminal justice system resources in Portugal since decriminalisation there. The report concluded there had been a reduced burden of drug offenders on the criminal justice system, highlighting that the proportion of drug-related offenders in Portugese prisons (including people convicted of crimes to fund drug consumption) fell from 44% in 1999 to 21% in 2008. The report also noted that the number of drug law cases brought to court fell sharply following decriminalisation.

There are difficulties in comparing the success of drug policies in different countries due to cultural, social and political variations effecting legislation, policing and sentencing. Nevertheless, the report makes the following observations:
 Following decriminalisation in Portugal there has not been a lasting increase in adult drug use. Looking across different countries, there is no apparent correlation between the ‘toughness’ of a country’s approach and the prevalence of adult drug use.
 There is evidence from Portugal of improved health prospects for users (e.g. significant reductions in the number of new diagnoses of HIV and AIDS among drug users), though these cannot be attributed to decriminalisation alone.
 It is not clear that decriminalisation reduces the burden on the police. Portugal appeared to apply similar police resourcing to drugs after decriminalisation as before.
 There are indications that decriminalisation can reduce the burden on criminal justice systems. Since decriminalisation, Portugal has reduced the proportion of drug related offenders in its prison population.

The report Report on the 2013 to 2014 international comparators study of approaches to drug-related issues by the UK and other countries can be found at:

Review of New Psychoactive Substances
The Home Office has published an evidence review of new psychoactive substances (NPS). It reports that mephedrone use tends to be higher than other types of NPS. Perhaps surprisingly, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) reports that mephedrone use has fallen since measurements began in 2010/11. The review covers topics such as the characteristics of NPS users, the market for NPS, motivations for NPS use, health harms, social harms and evidence gaps.

New Psychoactive Substances in England: A review of the evidence can be found at: